Monthly Archives: May 2013


It’s been a while.  What’s new?  Everything and nothing, that’s what.  When last we met I had a plan of sorts that I was quite pleased with.  But as they say, “the best laid plans of mice and men”.  I never understood that, but now I do.  I looked it up.  Everyone (okay, almost everyone) knows it comes from John Steinbeck’s moving and wonderful novel, “Of Mice and Men”.  But where did Steinbeck get it?

I recently attended a séance on a wet afternoon to speak with John.  He came into contact with me (it was kind of creepy) and he told me he scooped it up from a famous Robert Burn’s poem, “To a Mouse”, written in 1876.

I quote:

“But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren’t alone] 

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry] 

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promised joy.”

What does it mean?  Almost everyone knows it means that the most carefully laid plans may go wrong.  And guess what?  They sometimes do.  You spend a great deal of time thinking up what you think would be the best move for your future and lo and behold, you get it.  (By George, I think he’s got it).  And then through circumstances, some beyond your control and some of your own doing, they all go out the window and it’s back to the drawing board.

I had a job lined up in the lovely city of Zhuhai.  No winter, clean air, pretty, close to Hong Kong for visiting, I was happy.  I was going to finish up my prison term here at the high school and then lie and say I had to leave the country.  Then things started tumbling down.

At a school in China, it is usually the Foreign Affairs Department that helps you get your paperwork in order to give them so they can get you a “foreign experts certificate” and the official “Letter of Invitation” from the government that you need for your visa.  It was just my luck that the University in Zhuhai had a total moron in that position.  I think it was her first year doing the job and it was obvious she was at a loss.  She was asking me for crazy things (copies of my marriage license, etc.) and such including a resume listing all my relatives.  I couldn’t get an answer whether that included 3rd cousins, twice removed.  I couldn’t get details of anything.  She said someone from the English department would get in touch with me.  Finally the woman from the English department did even though it wasn’t her job and gave me a new list including a medical check.  The medical check is done at a government place, costs too much money, is useless, and takes about 4 business days to get the results.  I was going to go the following Monday.

On Wednesday I got a call from the foreign affairs department telling me that they wanted all my paperwork (including the medical check) by the weekend.  I told her that was impossible since I wasn’t going until the next Monday.  I didn’t know it was a rush.  She told me that was too late and they needed it know or they couldn’t get me the “Letter of Invitation”.  You probably think it’s some government foolishness but you’d be wrong.  The school wants to totally close down for the summer and have no one working so it must be done before then.  That is unusual.  This moron told me that someone would call me shortly with details.

On Friday I still hadn’t heard anything.  Was I surprised?  Not at all.  I wrote them off in my head and wrote a semi-nasty letter about how incompetent they are.  I thought we were done and I would never hear from them again.  Shujie was very happy because she had a “bad feeling” about this school.  I had a good feeling and it was just their Foreign Affairs Office that were morons.

On Wednesday night (2 nights ago) I got a call from the school from the English teacher who shouldn’t be involved asking me what was happening.  I told her nothing  was happening and reviewed the mess they’d made.  I had copied her on all emails so she knew everything.  She told me she tried to got her boss involved and her boss had called foreign affairs and asked them to do the job.  But naturally she never followed up, and one department in China can’t dictate to another department even if the incompetence of that department causes them trouble.  Hattie (the English teacher) kept apologizing and I kept saying it had nothing to do with her and that foreign affairs office should have done her job.

I don’t think she likes her job there but she is Chinese so her life is much more difficult than that of the foreign teacher.  I think she was indicating to me that I should find another job and I’d be lucky to.  But it was good money for little hours in a beautiful location with half-decent kids.  At least Shujie was happy with that outcome.

I had been looking for other jobs in the meantime because I didn’t trust them to do their job.  I will get to that story in a minute.

Last Thursday I was let go from the high school.  Why?  Good question.  No one told anyone (including the vice-principal) that this was about to happen.  They had some story about what the problem was and most of it (to my mind) sounded like lies.  The real reason in my opinion is that one day in the hall a student was asking me why she failed her test and she wanted to see the test.  I had been told that you don’t show the students their tests so I told her no.  The head Chinese teacher came up to me after and asked why I didn’t show so and so her test and why she failed.  I said, “Who do you mean, I don’t know anyone’s name”.  And it’s true that I am awful with names.  I think she ran to the school owner and signed my death warrant.  Someone from the English department overheard this and told the vice-principal who is American.  The head of the agency I work for and who placed me at this school came to the school and we had a meeting.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t care.  I hated going there and wasn’t crazy about the students although there were a few dream students.  Leaving like this meant I wouldn’t have to lie to anyone about leaving.  I was actually quite happy.  I was quitting in a month but the sooner the better.  The agency offered me a bunch of different placements that I said no to.  I’d been to a University they sent me to and I hated it worse than the high school.  They offered me what they claimed to be excellent teaching academy’s, which is where you learn English after school.  You work nights at these places.  I said no, I don’t work nights.  They offered me middle schools but I said, no, I don’t work middle schools.  Fussy, aren’t I?  It was agreed upon that they didn’t want me to stay in a place I wasn’t happy with so I was done.  We looked for flights (rip off central) and booked something for June 5.  First it was the 3rd, then there was a problem so it was the 5th, then there was another problem and we were back to the 3rd, and then there was another problem so we finally got something confirmed for the 5th.  It’s a one-way ticket and the reasoning behind that was that I had no job in my hand (although it was my goal to have a Chinese job before I left) and I didn’t want to rule out the possibility of a different country.

So we are gone from next week.  I love this apartment and this town has a decent steak house, a Subway, and a Starbucks close by.  That’s good.  But it’s not enough to live through a job I hate.  If I’m going to work for peanuts, I have to like my job.

So while all this is going on, I’m job hunting.  I’m looking in Iraq, Afghanistan, Romania, Poland, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and wherever.  I would love South America but there are no jobs there really.  Volunteer jobs there are, but I’m not working for free.  I’ll work for peanuts, but not for free.

Naturally I’m also looking in China.  Shujie wanted to go to Saudi Arabia because they are supposed to pay the best and I had 2 offers there, but I don’t trust them.  Their contracts are not exact enough so I can literally be trapped in a bad situation.  You have to jump through hoops to get a visa and if you’re a woman (which Shujie doesn’t get), you can’t do anything.  I’ve read that the foreigner man’s life isn’t much better.  They try to keep you segregated (many foreigners live in gated compounds) and since there was no $100,000 job (and that’s tax free), I’m not moved enough to go there.  I would be teaching only males and I prefer females.  It sounds exotic but for about 3 weeks of a fascinating time, you’d be giving up a year of your life.  I don’t think that’s a fair trade.

I didn’t get a position in another country.  For every position in another country, there are hundreds in China.  Granted, many of them are teaching academies (or school after school as I call it) and I don’t want that.  So I applied to Chinese jobs that paid more than I was getting now (it’s not a lot of money but with the free apartment it’s good).  I ended up with 3 job offers, one of which I believe to be a no-go.

The no-go is a high school type situation in Beijing.  The annual salary is about $36,000 (good for China) after tax.  It includes a paid for apartment.  However, you would be working full days, 5 days a week.  Twenty teaching hours and twenty office hours.  You’d be living about 45 minutes from the school so they would have a bus to take you and bring you back.  I’d be looking at a 10 hour day (including travel time).  That’s a real job.  The money for China is good but I really don’t want a “real full-time job).

Some of my documents aren’t what we call kosher and in most places in China that’s okay because they just need to see a scanned copy but this place wants an actual transcript to check you out.  I thought I’d play the game so I’m moving forward on that to see how far it goes.

The other two jobs came in as a toss-up.  Either one was fine with me.  One of them was a private college in Guangzhou (that means dumb rich kids).  The woman there was nice, it was a nice area (about an hour away from Zhuhai where I accepted the job that didn’t turn out)  Shujie and I both had a good feeling about it.  The pay was fair and I really couldn’t think of anything negative.

The other job was at Beijing University—Zhuhai campus.  Beijing University is the number one school in China.  It’s where all decent students aspire to go.  Their main campus is in Beijing but they have one in the south in Zhuhai.  So I’m back to the nice city.  They have more than 30 foreign English teachers so that’s a lot.  I will probably only see a class one time a week.  There is no holiday pay.  They pay you by the hour and the contract offers you a minimum number of hours a week.  Totaling  it all up, it’s the most money per hour (even with no holiday pay).  On the down side I’d be one of 30 teachers while at the college I’d be one of 3 foreign English teachers.  I’d prefer that naturally.

Shujie and I were looking at the pros and cons.  When Shujie first heard the words, “Beijing University” she was quite excited.  I would be happy with either school as I see pluses and minuses with either.  Shujie thinks Beijing University will look good on my resume.  I don’t’ think that’s true.  I think in 10 years it will look good as China is changing but right now it’s all about the colour of your skin.

Since I was happy with either choice, Shujie chose Beijing University because of the city and because of the prestige.  She also feels (and it shouldn’t be a problem) that she can monitor English classes there and improve her English for free.  So I accepted that offer.  I think I’ll still look in other countries over the summer, but we have a place to come back to.  We are shipping the bulk of our stuff to Baoding to her son to hold for us.  Since a lot of it will be winter clothes and there is basically no winter where we are going, who knows when we’ll need it again.

So that’s the plan.  For now.  We leave next week and we will come back near the end of August for this new school.  I think it will work out fine.  And if it doesn’t, no one dies.  As long as they’re honest people I’ll be okay.  I’d rather have a class more than one time a week in an effort to build a relationship but I guess I’m grabbed by the prestige of the name.  Of course, maybe there is no prestige to this campus and you have to go to Beijing to get that.  But on my resume it won’t say “Zhuhai campus” so I’ll sound good (if they look past the white face).

So that’s the story for now.  Who knows what the future brings.  I know I shouldn’t say this but here goes, it couldn’t be worse than this year.  When you take a new job, or someone hires you, you don’t know what you’re going to get.  Is that like life is a like a box of chocolates?

I may post a couple of times in the summer.  I don’t know.  We’ll see how it goes but I’ll be back for sure on my return to China (or maybe another country).  I will try to do a better job but the only thing I’ve learned about blogging (for me),is the more you have to complain about, the more you have to write.


What is a half-plunge?  That’s when all you know is you want to get out of a place so you pick the best thing possible at the time and then if something else comes along before you are due to show up, you burn the nice people who offered you a job and go elsewhere.

As is rather obvious by this point, I hate the high school life.  The kids may speak English okay, but there are really no interesting conversations to be had.  I don’t live on campus, so there are no students to hang out with at times (and I do enjoy socializing with them).  I can’t have a movie night.  I can’t have a decent conversation (teaching reading and writing doesn’t lead to that), and the school itself is just another scam business in China.

This is an “International” high school which means the students take a special program that will enable them to pass their ACT (for you Americans, and for Canadians it’s like the SAT), and I have no doubt due to our dubious marking schemes most, if not all, of these students will pass and be winging their way to points west.  You may soon see them at a University near you.

It’s bad for business to fail students.  About 50% of the students shouldn’t be in this school.  Money, or favours, changed hands to get their kids in here.  Parents here are stupid and have no idea just how dumbass their kids are.  We have students who don’t care and have trouble writing their name in English.  Some have trouble spelling their English name.  Now I don’t get really dumb names like I had before.  The strangest is Aphrodite but she can’t spell her name.

These parents who know no English think some miracle from the heavens will rain down on their children and change them into English marvels.  I suppose they forgot they’re atheists.  They are dumb.  The owner of the school can sell them whatever snake oil he cares to because if you want to believe, you will believe.

I believe that at least 50% of these students will be back in China in less than a year.  They will not be prepared for American (or wherever) universities, and they don’t know English.  Some will do fine and I have no worries about them.  But to have a 50% failure rate (that’s my guess as no statistics are kept) is terrible.  But fret not for these children as their parents have contacts and they will end up with good jobs (like for the government) where they do nothing but get paid well.

I just had an email from a friend I made in Korea who moved to Winnipeg a few years ago and is now in Calgary.  His comment on Chinese students in Canada was:

Many of the language programs of Canadian universities are occupied by the Chinese students who are not interested in studying. Most of them waste their money and time just because their rich parents want them to study in Canada. Some of them buy a new BMW or Benz as soon as they arrive. One thing I can’t imagine is that how much money their parents have. One of the Chinese students in Winnipeg was killed in a car accident after a midnight party He was driving drunk.”

That sounds promising, doesn’t it?

I know a lot of this seems like a rehash of my last post, however where that one was just despair, this one involves some positive and proactive actions on our part.

The apartment here is nice and I doubt we will ever be given as nice an apartment as this one.  This city isn’t bad because I can get good junk food (Subway, Dunkin Donuts).  However, that’s not enough for me.  What’s the point of working for nothing if you hate your job?  If you’re earing $100,000 a year, you can hate your job.  For about $1100 a month, you should love your job.

After talking to a few schools here (and they are dumb in my opinion), I’ve decided to accept a job at a University in Zhuhai in Guangdong province.  It’s in the southern part of China and there is a tunnel to Hong Kong that is about a 30-minute drive.  The money is decent for a 12-hour week but there will probably be overtime hours included that should make this my best paying job so far.  The person I spoke to there (foreign teacher from England) said that in his 10 years in China these were the smartest and most enthusiastic students he’s ever run across.  That is positive.  The school is a little isolated but in a beautiful area with clean air.  Here is a picture:

zhuhai college

The apartment is a 2-bedroom which is good and there are only 3 foreign English teachers (there are 24,000 students so go figure).  I like living on campus.  We will buy a car, which expands the radius of where Shujie can look for work or something to do.  Ideally she’d love to return to Canada but I don’t want to live like a pauper.  I think I personally can enjoy this.  And if we’re lucky, Shujie will enjoy it too.  She does say she knows it’s beautiful.

So I have a job in my hand but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking.  I won’t be looking in China but my efforts will be geared towards the Middle East (Dubai sounds nice).  The money is the best and it’s something new.  I’ll just keep pounding away and if nothing happens then I have a nice job in a beautiful city.  If I get a job in a new country, then Shujie is happier because she gets to see something new, and I would love a new experience.  I applied in Afghanistan this morning but I haven’t heard anything back yet.

Saudi Arabia is another option.  There are lots of jobs there and perhaps I can scam one.  However, they keep you isolated and a woman’s life is garbage.  Shujie says she doesn’t care (boy, does she want out of China) but we shall see.  I think the Saudi’s pay the most (about $50K U.S. and no taxes on average).

So I will hold on to my bird in the hand, which isn’t so bad, and keep looking in the bushes.  Who knows, come September we might have a car and be living close to a beach (average temperature in December in Zhuhai is 19 degrees Celsius).   Or maybe we’ll be in Iraq, which would be quite interesting, or perhaps Saudi Arabia, which is probably the safest country in the world.

But I feel better.  I like knowing there is a light at the end of this tunnel.  I sent out about 20 resumes to Language schools in Toronto yesterday hoping for a summer job.  I doubt anything will happen but if I don’t try, then I know nothing will happen.

I can’t get sucked under by a bad spell, and that’s what I was doing.  I’ve now wised up (Janet Weiss), and the future looks much brighter.  I just thought I’d post this to let anyone who follows this know that the fight goes on and the future actually does look bright.

Here we are.  Another May Day here for us to enjoy and do whatever you’re supposed to do on Mayday.  Has our life been exciting?  No really.  I decided firmly that I don’t like my job.  I’m not cut out for high school.  It’s University or nothing.  I find myself in class wanting to yell and scream and throw things, but naturally I don’t.  I just stand there with this insipid look on my face.

The semester is drawing to an end.  We are deciding what to do.  They never got around to getting me a contract (although I do get paid) and that is good.  I want to move and I think I’ve got Shujie’s convinced.  There is a University that offered me a job in the Southern area of China where there are mountains and beaches and looks beautiful.  I think I’m going to take the job there and if something wonderful pops up, I can just go there.  I would go to another country (Middle East pays well) but without a Masters it’s hard to get work.

For what I get paid, school is not fun.  If I’m going to work for peanuts, I should enjoy it.  It’s a grind and there are jobs where you can grind that pay more.  Shujie hasn’t been able to find a job here so there is nothing holding us here.  The city has more things and bars (not that we go often, but they are nice to have).  The place we are looking at is a little isolated (about 40 minutes to downtown) but we are considering buying a car (Chinese car, about $10,000).  It expands the radius where Shujie can find a job so that’s good.  The average temperature there in December (their coldest month) is 19C.  Pictures lie but usually not scenery and it looks beautiful.  I spoke to a teacher there and he said they had the best students he’s ever working with (and he’s been in China for 10 years).

I think I will accept the job and then if something comes along in another country, I’ll blow town.  The job sounds good and the location sounds great.  Job hunting is a pain and so is moving.

I’ve applied outside the country but there isn’t much around.  The Middle East is a good place because it pays well, but you do need a Master’s degree.  So, I think we should take what we can for now, and change our minds if necessary.

I hate running out on the guy who hired me but I’m sorry, I’m more important.  I hate my job and I come home unhappy.  I don’t feel I owe anyone anything (I was told it was a University job and I doubt it was that but more like a 3-year college).  The apartment here is nice (one big plus) but they are doing work 2 floors down and they have a jackhammer going all the time.  We are in the midst of a 3-day holiday but that doesn’t matter.  Shujie brought him up here to say, “it’s only 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon”.  Who cares?  You don’t do that on a holiday when everyone is home.  But in China no one cares about anyone else and everyone does what they want regardless of the inconvenience.  A pox on them.

Jan came from Baotou for a couple of days to visit and that was nice.  We miss her.  School starts again tomorrow (whoop-de-do), and I just want to get out of this place.  I’m thinking one or two months.  I’m going to lie and say I have to leave the country due to family illness so no one’s feelings are hurt, and the Chinese expect you to lie to them since it is the culture.

I like living on campus because it’s full of young people who are mostly friendly.  The campus has 24,000 students and I’m told only 3 foreign English teachers.  I don’t run the school so whether I think they are idiots or they don’t matter.  It only matters if I do the best job I can.  The pay is pretty good for 12 hours a week (yes, that’s standard here) plus there will be some overtimes.  The money is not bad.

I’m just feeling in a rut.  I read, I watch a lot of movies, we go out occasionally, maybe this is what life is like.  I think we’ll have to eat at Pizza Hut today just to get out of here.  I am so “Pizza Huted out”.

I don’t want this to sound like the worst place on earth because it’s not.  It’s a nice neighborhood and I get paid and the job is easy.  However, boredom is bad.  Some of the students I would just like to punch their faces in, while others I’d be happy to adopt.

Shujie won’t admit to being bored so maybe she isn’t, but I can’t see that.  She really didn’t want to move but I guess she got tired of looking at my miserable face every day.  If she had a good job I’d have to think twice about going, but what would she be giving up?  A nice apartment?  So what.  The car will make up for that.

I was offered a job in Saudi Arabia but what I was told in advance and the offer didn’t match.  I couldn’t bring my wife.  Sorry, not going.  There is this guy who tells me he has great jobs in the U.A.E. but I haven’t heard from him for a while.  There was a quite suitable job in Dubai, but they don’t write back.  I even applied to Iraq (I love excitement) but for some reason they don’t want me.  My resume is impressive so I just can’t figure anything out.

We haven’t booked plane fare back to Canada for the summer.  If we leave in July we are looking at $2000 each.  If we get out at the end of June, I think we can do $1500 each.  Either way it’s a lot of money.  I’d have to buy a year’s worth of medication while I’m there which would be about $1500.  Sometimes I think I could go back but what would I do.  My I.T. skills are not exactly up to date, and I have no desire to work in I.T.  I think with a little bit of luck, teaching University gives me the most enjoyment.

If Shujie could find something that interested her, that would be wonderful.  I hope with a car she’ll have a wider area to search and perhaps something may work out.  Of course, being a 50-year-old woman doesn’t help her.  Fifty is old in China.

I looked up my social security benefits yesterday.  I qualify for $1200 a month at age 65.  That’s more than I thought.  It will take a while to find out my Canada Pension Plan benefits since I have to get my birthdate changed since they don’t have the right one on file.

That’s it.  Life goes on and on and on.  Who knows, maybe bright days are just around the corner.  (You should always try to stay positive).